Annabelle Comes Home is a fun film. It’s not an essential one.
Written and Directed by Gary Dauberman
Starring McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Gary-7, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Michael Cimino
One could suppose it as luck the fact that the two prior films in this subset of The Conjuring Universe have been above average. The story is, after all, about a doll that doesn’t move. Still, enough happens in and around the people who encounter the doll, the formula fit nicely within the series of films intended to scare you in the most PG-13 way possible.
This time, the story starts off in the familiar scenery of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) taking the doll into their home museum of haunted artifacts. It is blessed and locked in a cabinet that comes from an old church. Their daughter Judy (Grace) is aware, but not concerned. Soon we realize that she has other issues in her periphery that are problematic.
Ma and Pa Warren leave their daughter in the hands of a reliable babysitter (Iseman). As one might guess, the overnight chaperone duty will not go off without a hitch. The hitch takes form of Daniela (Sarife), who shows a little too much interest in the goings on of the Warren household. Daniela invites herself over and soon enough the museum of freaks comes alive.
Through the three Annabelle films, Dauberman has done a good job of making sure that all of the non-demonic characters are given a full enough story to make them relatively interesting, even sympathetic. There are no throwaway characters in this world. A lesser script would have made sure the person who awakens the demons, dead, hellhounds, etc, would die a complete and miserable death.
What discover with Daniela gives her depth and righteous cause, even if she’s still doing something completely wrong. This makes it hard to assume her imminent demise; even harder to wish for it.
Grace’s Judy shares the same traits as her mother, but she hasn’t learned much about what she should do with it. This seems strange in a house like the Warren’s. My guess is that they’d likely nurture her ability, or at the very least be open to the idea.
Dauberman leans into Judy’s status as a tweener. Showing that its she’s likely not comfortable enough with herself to say anything to her parents.
That the film pushes Judy and Daniela together is a pleasant surprise, and it gives something more interesting than the virginal and perfect Mary Ellen to work with as a friendly figure. Mary Ellen is still there. She’s just not as essential.
Once the demon is out, many aspects of the museum room activate. A few of them are scary (the wedding dress, the coins) but others fail to register at all. The film goes back and forth between each, and the result is only as interesting as the adversary faced in the moment.
The ending is the cleanest of all of the films in this universe. It’s a bit of a disappointment. The doll and its demon have to get locked up sometime, to be sure. Given everything we see heading up to this ending, it feels insufficient, to say the least.
If you can get past the lighting, the fog and the fact that none of the characters seem to want to turn on a light or notice the fog is inside the house and out, you can enjoy this film. James Wan and company have become great at mixing up the scares and generally not repeating themselves.
Annabelle Comes Home is a fun film. And like Mary Ellen, it’s just not as essential.
(*** out of *****)